With most of the world’s sporting calendar in a state of limbo due to the global covid-19 outbreak, Taiwan’s Premier League kicks off this Sunday (04/12).
Although games will be initially behind closed doors, viewers in Taiwan and overseas will be able to watch the season unfold on the CTFA YouTube channel, where the CTFA will live stream selected matches.
This season has the potential to be the most exciting in some time, with four teams harbouring realistic title ambitions and new relegation rules increasing the peril for the teams near the bottom.
Tatung, winners of the last three TFPL titles, find themselves in reduced circumstances after the loss of key players. Although the Taipei club have brought in some new faces, they will likely be relying on their squad depth and experience to defend their title.
Perennial runners-up Taipower will be hoping to benefit from Tatung’s troubles after coming within touching distance of the title last year. Unlike their rivals, Taipower’s squad looks stronger this season. They have added new players whilst retaining all of last season’s playing squad, as they fight on two fronts in the Premier League and the AFC Cup.
Despite finishing a distant 4th last season, Taiwan Steel are generating a lot of interest. The Tainan side were aggressive during the transfer window, signing last season’s two highest scorers and Taiwan’s starting goalkeeper. If the squad can settle together quickly, they will fancy their chances of winning their first Premier League title.
Also seeking their first Premier League title are Taichung Futuro. Despite having title ambitions last year, they were disappointed to finish 5th, some 24 points off the top. Futuro have reacted by bringing in Taiwan’s former national team manager Toshiaki Imai and skilful South Korean forward Joo Ik-Seong, as well as several players from the lower Japanese leagues. Whether this will be enough to bridge the gap remains to be seen.
At the other end of the table, teams such as Ming Chuan University and Taipei Red Lions may be going into the new season with a hint of trepidation. After the CTFA announced a new second division, and with it new relegation/promotion rules, staying in the Premier League is a much tougher prospect.
In previous seasons, the teams finishing 7th and 8th would play a relegation playoff against two prospective Premier League teams. Now, however, this is only offered to the team finishing 7th, with the last-placed team being automatically relegated to the Challenge League.
With so much to play for this season, could this be the year that football in Taiwan begins to get the recognition it craves? With so many other sporting events postponed or cancelled, 2020 presents an opportunity for many new fans to enjoy what should be an extremely competitive season of football.